Morale and spirit is just as important as medical recovery in the Dons treatment room

Simon Crampton
Simon Crampton

It's not just the physical side of injury recovery the MK Dons medical staff have to cater for, but the mental side of it as well.

With players sidelined for varying lengths of time for different reasons and different levels of discomfort, the sight of the physio is often a negative one for footballers.

Alex Gilbey

Alex Gilbey

Simon Crampton, Head of Sports Science and Medicine at MK Dons, tries to keep his department as positive as possible, but admits it is easier said than done with some players.

However, with the likes of Alex Gilbey and George Williams this season, Crampton believes their work ethic and determination, as well as their positive personalities, help morale considerably.

"It's one of the most important aspects. I'll have to take players into my office and tell them they need an operation, or they have a significant injury. It's never a nice thing to do, especially when they're out for in excess of nine months or a year. Everybody reacts differently. We have to understand how people tick, and then we adapt our communication, how we work.

"In the week building up to the final game of the season, it was a very positive environment. We just kept looking at each other and saying “come on the Dons!” and it became our little phrase. We don't allow negativity in the treatment room, but there is inevitable disappointment and upset. But we have to react to that. It's really important to create a positive environment.

Baily Cargill

Baily Cargill

"On a Friday, we'll have different music playing when everyone gets their pre-match massages – Kieran Agard loves my barbecue mix! - we play different games, and we try and make the days as varied as we can.

>> Read part one of our interview with Simon Crampton here
>> Read part two of our interview with Simon Crampton here
"Whether they're with me, Adam (Ross), Matt (Willmot) or Tom (Bromley), we're all different personalities, so they players get different exposure. Each day, we try and make the plans different, whether it's changing the scenery to the gym over the road, or at the training ground, it's important to keep that variety.

"This season, we've got a really good squad. George Williams got injured and we expected it to take six months. He accepted it, he got his head down, worked hard at it and was back in four. He was a pleasure to work with and we've seen that in lots of different players. Mitch Hancox was the same.

"Alex Gilbey smashes rehab – we were told nine months out and he was back in six, and that's testament to his hard work. Those characters bring up the others who can be negative or are struggling with it. Their drive is infectious and it carries everyone through.

Joe Walsh

Joe Walsh

"If I see someone struggling, there will always be someone who has had a similar injury or has been through a similar time, and we can get them to have a chat. There are some characters though who are more difficult to deal with!"

Gilbey's ankle injury, picked up against Yeovil in March, ruled him out for the rest of the season. A year earlier, the midfielder was also sidelined with a major knee injury which threatened to keep him out for nine months. Stuck in the treatment room with Joe Walsh and academy product Dylan Asonganyi, the trio formed a strong bond, with Walsh and Gilbey both helping the teenager through his injury.

And Crampton admits the bonds formed between players while they are injured often go further than just football.

"You see real friendships being made. Football is a difficult world, trying to get people from different walks of life coming together, and they might not get along outside of football. But when they're in the treatment room for a few months, it irons out and they become good friends.

"There was a real love story between Alex, Joe and Dylan, who had never been injured before. They really helped him through that tricky period. Joe and Alex I think will be lifelong friends now, and Baily (Cargill) too. And they'll be uncles or big brothers to Dylan. It forges a lot of relationships."

Gilbey's positivity and dedication to his recovery, Crampton believes, also helped him recover from the knee injury much quicker, returning in six months rather than nine as doctors had predicted.

He continued: "Alex had that horrendous knee injury, we reacted quickly, we had machinery sent to his house to continuously keep the knee moving through the process, and he was living in that. That was a time when we had to be so careful and sensible, and he had to follow everything to the T, and he did. He was a fantastic pro for that.

"For his rehab, he smashed it. We had a few that went very well, but this one went really well.

"He had done 1 million metres in games until his injury. While Adam worked with him in the gym, Matt and Tom played their part too, a lot of the credit has to go to Alex himself."